Shakespeare for me is a little more than a text:
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents:
Perhaps the most interesting thing to come from my experience of the rain (see below) is a realisation of just how physically real this speech is.
As we approach 2007 - the year when over half of the world's population will be classified as urban - connecting our personnel experiences with the natural elements of Shakespeare is becoming increasingly difficult.
I suspect, in Shakespeare's time, listening to Titania's speech was a much more powerful experience - it certainly is for me now - and physical/tactile rather than intellectual. There is an overwhelming sense of uncontrolled energy - an energy against which we are impotent.
My understanding of this is not now in terms of psychology - it is in terms of a concrete feeling based, as it must have been for the vast majority of Shakespeare's original audience, on being forced to endure a real storm.
Pelting rain is no longer just uncomfortable, it is a force to be reckoned with.
And this is not an extreme event (as it is sometimes suggested by people who have lived in the closed world of the ivory tower) - my experience was only on the edge of the really serious flooding that devestated parts of Romania.
Just as in the politic world of Theseus/Hippolyta, Egeus is being allowed to break the harmony and sends out the forces locked in the lovers; so in the natural world of Oberon and Titania, a dispute unleashes considerable natural forces, normally held in check.
Every Pelting River made Proud
We had our own Niagra Falls within seconds of it starting to rain: The guttering running the 20 meter length of barn roof was overflowing.
And I mean flowing - a solid, metalic sheet of water heaved itself off the roof and plunged onto the cobbles below. – I've lived on and off in the village for several years now and I'd never seen anything like it.
For well over half-an-hour the downpour hammered everything.
The yard was under several centemetres of water. Drainage was through the barn – soaking the bottom of the stored hay.
The tell-tale sound of flowing water signelled the road down the hill outside the main entrance had turned into a torrent – normally this only happenes in the worst of winter, when the ground is frozen – and rarely with such intensity; never for so long.
Plum and walnut trees seemed pressed down. Goodness knows where the birds had gone – they couldn't fly in this.
It was not dark exactly – the rain was light – but you only saw the rain – and how it was pushing against everything.
Inside, the chimney soon ran with water – the plaster was stained and I had to put down sponges and cloths to try to absorb some of the flow.
I moved the small icon I had bought in a flea market in Moscow, and the fine Chinese statue from Shanghai, off the mantle piece. A few old letters had already soaked through and were sticking.
I could only move things out of the way of the ever increasind drips and dribbles: The roof, not in the greatest of states, was incapable of holding out rain under this pressure: At one point, quite frankly, it seemed to me as if it had given up trying.
Back on the veranda the tiles were seaping. I saw one of the local house snakes glide up and into the summer kitchen – wether it was escaping the water or because it had scented a mouse escaping the water, I couldn’t tell – but at that moment any living thing I could attach an atom of sympathy to was a welcome sight.
There was nothing I could do: Whatever damage there was, there would be.
But damage was the wrong word – this was an unfocused, complete and all encompassing force – pressing squeezing, shifting – but not total. You knew it could do a lot more.
It was unmotivated, aimless, inpersonal.
One element – water – against … what?
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